Historically, there was no custom in Ukraine to celebrate the New Year on the 1st of January.
Various dates have been regarded as the beginning of the year throughout Ukraine’s history. Until the 13th century, the start of the new year fell on the spring period – the beginning of March.
Because the start of the year was traditionally associated with the beginning of a new season of agricultural work, many carols celebrate the arrival of spring. For example, some researchers believe the song “Schedryk” originated during this time.
From the 13th to the 17th century, in the territory of modern Ukraine, the New Year was celebrated on September 1 (according to the Julian calendar, September 14), on Simeon Stylites Day. Such a change occurred because the church adopted the Greek-Byzantine church rites, where September 1 was considered the beginning of the church and civil year.
The tradition of using didukh (a Christmas decoration made from a sheaf of wheat) started in those times. When the harvest was over, one sheaf, the first or the last according to the different traditions, was taken home, placed on the table, and decorated with colorful flowers and ribbons. Some families keep this tradition alive even today.
Since the 14th century, January 1 has marked the beginning of the New Year in the Ukrainian lands formerly part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later the Commonwealth.
However, the New Year was calendar-wise significant for those who measured time with a paper calendar and possessed a clock, i.e., only the most literate segment of society. Other strata of society started counting the new year from Christmas.
Since the 17th century, January 1 (January 14, according to the Julian calendar) has been regarded as the first day of the new calendar year. It was preceded by the Malanka holiday, associated with Ukrainian farming traditions.
The date of the celebration was changed in 1918 to coincide with the beginning of the year with other European countries – according to the Gregorian calendar. However, the tradition of the celebration has been preserved, so on January 13 – 14, some Ukrainians still celebrate the Old New Year.
Many New year’s ceremonies were dedicated to the harvest. For example, one of the traditions that have survived to this day is “sowing”.
On this day, boys or men come to a house and “sow” (throw all around a house) grains: rye, wheat, barley, and oats. They also proclaim special poems while “sowing”, wishing hosts of the house to have a prosperous new year.
Now the New Year is celebrated in Ukraine from the night of December 31 to January 1. Traditionally, a festive table is laid with many dishes, and spending time with family and friends, playing games, and watching movies.
Have you ever celebrated New Year’s Eve in Ukraine? Share your experience with us in the comments. How is the New Year celebrated in your country?